They say football is a game of attrition. Then there’s the Tennessee Titans, who this year, have infected the entire league with their bizarre brand of football, characterized by a run heavy play action offense, a defense built on turnovers and their front four pass rush, mixed with something funky, loophole clock management, trick plays, high redzone touchdown rate, special teams capitalization, and, of course, losing to bad football teams like the New York Jets, and this week, the Houston Texans.
After dealing with injuries all season long, the camel finally collapsed. Jaw wide open. Tongue purple and enormous. A.J. Brown busted his hand then his chest. Marcus Johnson pulled his hamstring again. Derrick Henry’s Jones’d his foot, showing that even Superman can get a hole in his cape. Julio Jones can’t finish a single game, and is on the injured reserve, joining Bud Dupree, who was added the weekend before. Starting linebackers Rashaan Evans and David Long were gone. Nate Davis was replaced by the San Martian Aaron Brewer.
It was a week where Ryan Tannehill had zero wide receivers, with a gray brained and barbaric Adrian Peterson leading the rushing attack, because, for whatever reason, Mike Vrabel loves his leadership, even though he misses the hole and runs like Peterson, and looks like Peterson, but is covered in Robitissun, slowed down to half speed. Houston forced four interceptions, and Cameron Johnston stuck on on the punt returners foot, to make it five. The Titans third down offense was also abysmal. They were 1/5 on third downs and 0-2 on fourth downs at one point.
After forcing five against Miami, which made it impossible to score because the offense handed it over four times themselves, the Texans repeated it with five more turnovers. Off this, Houston created 22 points. Tim Kelly schemed up easy enough throws for Tyrod Taylor, who was inaccurate once again. Houston’s quarterback did run it in for a pair of touchdowns, including a leer jet leap over the stratosphere. I thought the Earth was flat. I guess it isn’t. The run game was atrocious. Houston averaged 1.71 yards a carry with their backs, and Rex Burkhead is now carrying the ground game. That’s pretty cool I guess.
These are the things that it took for the Texans to pull off an upset. Normally, in these conditions, all wins would be a loss. Hurting the future, lowering draft pick position. This season is different. There isn’t a slam dunk true number one pick on the board. There’s no burrowing for Joe Burrow. Or abhorrence for Trevor Lawrence. The quarterbacks are in a clump all clung together. Top defensive picks lack the transcendent label. Two isn’t much different than four. Five isn’t a dramatic change from one. The Texans need to learn how to win games, or something, even though this is a elder vampiric roster.
People will tell you to enjoy a win, or savor it. I don’t know what that means. I don’t like being told what to do. You feel what you feel, and these days, all anyone feels is ennui, which is barely something. The football isn’t good, and doesn’t really matter, what does is Mike Vrabel drenched on the sideline, and David Culley reenacting his favorite television show The Deadliest Catch. That was something amazing. We all could use more of that.
QUICK, SOMEONE GIVE ME A BRICK WALL:
Culley told media that no game balls given out because #Texans haven't won enough games.— Brian T. Smith (@ChronBrianSmith) November 21, 2021
Well, I’m not sure the NFL will see a bigger upset this week than what they did in Nashville. In one respect, the Titans dominated the Texans, holding them to under 200 total yards of offense and gaining over 420 yards, including out- rushing the team from H-town sans Henry. Yet, the Titans’ L is a result of losing 0-5 in the turnover battle.
The Titans played arguably their worst game of the season. Yes, Injuries were a factor and the weather was not great. However, a team like the Titans, one with aspirations of the top seed in the conference, needs to take care of business, especially at home and especially against a team like Houston. Ryan Tannehill must have had flashbacks to his days in Miami with that performance. Throwing four interceptions will not yield many wins. It did not today.
While the Texans defense is coming off back-to-back five takeaway games, there is a lot for this team NOT to like about this performance. Coming off a bye, this veteran team still managed to commit seven penalties, many of which were the painful, dumb mental mistake variety. That does not reflect well. After the third quarter touchdown, the Texans offense was all but MIA. Taylor played better than he did against Miami, but he was not great. The team was at least able to rush the ball all game, but they were not all that great, especially if you subtract out Taylor’s individual rushing efforts in the red zone to net the sole two touchdowns.
Still, credit must be given to this team for the win. The Texans were well on their way not only to being 0-fer on the road this year, but they could have taken their place among the worst road teams in NFL history. The team was on an eight-game losing streak, and it very easily could have morphed into more. Yet, they got the steal and a win is a win. I figured the team would get their [Easterbys] kicked and badly. Welp, I’ll put some Pete’s hot sauce on the prediction and chow down.
Some will lament that the team won and is now behind Detroit and Jacksonville in the draft order. Yet, without a sure fire #1 prospect, and the likelihood that the Texans will still end up with a top 5 pick, I think they will be ok on the front. The Texans aren’t good, but the team is showing that on any given Sunday, with just enough from Taylor and some timely takeaways (and sloppy play from an opponent), they can actually log a W.
MOST PEOPLE DON’T THINK ABOUT THAT:
2-1 in the division— Lonnie Johnson jr. (@Lonnie30johnson) November 21, 2021
This is as good a time as ever to say “I told ya so.”
Now, I’m rarely right when I make gut-felt predictions on games. But, for some reason I just knew the Texans were gonna beat the Not-The-Oilers yesterday.
Tennessee isn’t as good as they’ve played, while Houston... well, they are as bad as they’ve played. However, this has all the makings of a trap game for the former Texas franchise. Overhyped from their win streak, missing the star running back, a quarterback who really isn’t elite but has been playing at a very high level for awhile and an opponent everyone assumed would just lay down and die.
While I’m bummed this messes with Houston’s #1 draft pick aspirations, I’m much happier that they won the one game this season that sticks it to the Nashville Not-The-Oilers.
Now, we’ll return to Tank-A-Thon 2021, already in progress.
THE ORIGIN STORY:
Good morning.— Stephanie Stradley (@StephStradley) November 21, 2021
Given today’s #Texans game and Thanksgiving coming up, it is a very appropriate time to share “The Story of the BESFs,” hosted at @battleredblog. Houston football will be good or bad or real bad but the Titans will forever be #BESF.https://t.co/DZ3g4UX7vd
As long as the Texans continue to play plus five turnover football against injury ravaged teams with their quarterback having their worst career game, the team is an unstoppable force!
Snark aside, beating the BE-SFs is always a good thing. The Texans may not win another game the rest of the year, but there is some solid schadenfreude in this victory, which is a good thing.
The other good news is that the battle for the #1 overall pick in the draft isn’t that big of a deal for the 2022 draft. There isn’t a clear cut first overall player, and there certainly isn’t a QB worth the first.
So, let’s enjoy the victory, flip the bird at Beelzebud, and hope the Texans burn the stadium down on the way back to Houston.
DONTRELLE HILLIARD REVENGE GAME:
Dontrell Hilliard was IN Texans camp this preseason. He is a million light years better than David Johnson. That is all.— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) November 21, 2021
It appears Houston was on the beneficiary side of a trap game. In typical football fashion Tennessee’s defense fell back down to earth after being hyped up during the game previews. On offense, the Titans’ depth and lack of proven weapons truly showed its colors. Tannehill played one of his worst games but was doing so in the rain with a practice squad of receivers especially after A.J, Brown went out. This game had shades of a preseason game with all of these proverbial backup types littering both sides depth charts.
On Houston’s side I will say I’ve been pleasantly surprised about the takeaways not only from this game but the fact that this momentum carried over from the Miami week. Hopefully having the bye-week to prepare for this pretty one dimensional borderline neutered Titans offense is what lead to defenders being so sharp.
Is this game plan sustainable? Probably not especially when competition increases however it’s promising to see the skeleton of an average defensive unit start to show their stripes. Maliek Collins inside, Greenard on the edge, Kaau ‘Geiger’ Hill at linebacker, and Justin Reid getting back to some deep safety looks. This defensive unit really just needs some corners, another edge presence and a second level defender who can make plays whether that be at safety or a linebacker doing his best Eric Kendricks/Fred Warner impression.
Offensively, I would very much like to welcome back the nickname TyGOD Taylor into my rotation after his bounce back performance. He truly wasn’t world beating, rarely throwing downfield however when the interior of the pocket collapsed he consistently rolled out and delivered balls to keep the chains moving. Kristian Fulton had a very rough time with the savvy vet Brandin Cooks. Nico Collins actually does look like something assuming he actually gets more opportunity.
All in all I don’t think this was an impressive win by any means and a lot of the variables this week were a bit circumstantial. However, I don’t want that to ruin the positive takeaways, that we’ve seen now that the lineup shuffled certain guys out. A lot of people will talk about draft position however I said weeks ago the odds point towards a top five pick more so than first overall. Which in my opinion is great! Teams will be more willing to trade up for a two to sixth pick as opposed to the ransom for top of the draft totem pole.
In this draft class in particular, there is not a clear cut bona fide stud outside of the edge from Oregon. However edge just so happens to be the deepest position group in this draft with three players contending for top ten status so missing out on numero uno isn’t necessarily a coffin nail for draft hopes. This is a fairly shallow group when it comes to true ‘blue chip’ prospects however these elite players line up with Houston’s roster needs pretty nicely. Edges Aidan Hutchinson or George Karlaftis, unicorn safety Kyle Hamilton, cornerbacks Derek Stingley or Andrew Booth, and offensive lineman Evan Neal (RT) or Tyler Linderbaum (C) would all provide a talent boost in this Texans locker room regardless of how the end of year standings play out.
Sad, wet Mike Vrabel pic.twitter.com/nr5PABcZxE— Kevin (@Kevin_Agee) November 21, 2021
Wow, even with a motley of injuries, everyone expected the Titans to steamroll through the Texans. The first quarter immediately was a surprise as the Texans completed multiple third down conversions. The offense was gliding with Tyrod Taylor at QB. Many people criticized him for three interceptions last week, but if you study the film most of the interceptions were from pressures or weird mistakes. I’d assume that would be the case against the Titans with their formidable defensive line, but this rag tag group of lineman put together a fantastic performance.
Undrafted rookie Jimmy Morrissey held his own against the teeth of the Titans pass rush. The Titans blitzed all night, but were able get to Taylor only a couple of times. I’ll have to give credit to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly for calling plays where Taylor was rolling out of the pocket and was able to use his movement to avoid poor or net zero plays. Calling an offense to the players you have on the field is the sign of a quality OC.
When the Texans didn’t convert a touchdown after the almost pick-six at the end of the first quarter, I was seriously concerned that was the momentum swing the Titans needed to turn this around quickly. Instead, the defense held its own and got the ball back into the hands of the offense, who scored its first away touchdown since week two.
Two players I want to call out were Malik Collins and Ross Blacklock. The pair of defensive lineman had a fantastic game getting penetration. They stopped the Titans on multiple third and fourth and short plays which continually KILLED the Titans.
On offense. the Titans forced just about everything. Multiple fourth down tries rarely worked and they equally couldn’t throw the ball down the field. Without both Julio and Derek Henry, their offense had more questions than answers.
With a Titans loss and another Colts win, this division just got very interesting. Both of these teams are in a hunt for the playoffs and securing the division would ease a lot of tensions. There’s five AFC teams with winning records who are above .500, which will make the end of the season a slugfest for the three wild card spots.
THE FEEL GOOD HIT OF 2021:
Kamu Grugier-Hill jokes that "lactic acid is one hell of a drug," notes on his pick: "I gotta score that, I gotta score that. But I mean, we played good defense today man, we played good team ball. we're just so excited, Man, I can't even talk now I'm so excited." pic.twitter.com/giCxtAlK6C— Rivers McCown (@riversmccown) November 21, 2021